Henrik Ibsen’s “A Doll’s House”, a tragic play set in the late 1800’s, is one women’s realization of her life as merely that of a doll living out her life as an object in a world dominated by the males around her. Ibsen points the reader in the right direction to the deeper meaning of the play in the title. The title “A Doll’s House”, a metaphor, causes the reader or watcher of the play to think what deeper meaning lies ahead.
The play takes place in the living room of Torvald and Nora Helmer’s apartment on Christmas Eve. Nora, the protagonist, returns home from shopping for Christmas presents and is playfully greeted by her husband Torvald. It is quickly revealed that things aren’t exactly what they appear and all may not be just right at the Helmer’s residence as evidenced by the following lines:
HELMER: [calls out from room] Is that my little lark twittering out there?
NORA: [busy opening some of the parcels] Yes, it is!
HELMER: Is my squirrel bustling about?
HELMER: When did my squirrel come home?
NORA: Just now. [puts the bag of macaroons into her pocket and wipes her mouth] Come in here, Torvald, and see what I have bought. (Act 1)
This dialogue is more reminiscent of a father and young child than of a husband and wife. The realistic theme of women’s treatment by the men in their lives during this era is shown by the interaction of the couple. The dominating nature of Nora’s husband, which is shown by the example text above, in which Nora has to hide her macaroons from her husband, and the almost childlike manner in which Torvald treats Nora, continues throughout the play. The antagonist, Nils Krogstad, a lawyer and bank clerk at the bank where Torvald is employed and has just been promoted, adds tension in the play once it is revealed that Krogstad intends to blackmail Nora and Torvald due to an act of forgery by Nora to secure a secret loan from Krogstad years ago.
The action of the play rises as Nora tries to figure a way out of Krogstad’s trap and climaxes as Torvald reads a letter from Krogstad providing the details of Nora’s secret actions. Although hints to the denouement were given all along the way, the play quickly “unties” itself after Torvald’s climatic burst of anger after reading the contents of the letter. The play concludes with Nora leaving Torvald after the realization that she is alive and must live like a real human being instead of living as an inanimate doll. In this powerful passage, Nora exclaims: “I believe that before all else I am a reasonable human being, just as you are – or, at all event, that I must try and become one…” (Act 3).
Ibsen transforms this simple story, one played out in many households of that era into one that captures our heart and literally transfixes us over the action through his strong use of the various literary and dramatic elements. Even though many of the scenes are playful, with kids full of excitement and anticipation of Christmas, Ibsen controls the...